BOX 4-6

NAWQA Science Plan, Goal 4 and Objectives

Goal 4: Predict the effects of human activities, climate change, and management strategies on future water quality and ecosystem condition.

Essential Objectives:

4a. Evaluate the suitability of existing water-quality models and enhance as necessary for predicting the effects of changes in climate and land use on water quality and ecosystem conditions.

4b. Develop decision-support tools for managers, policy makers, and scientists to evaluate the effects of changes in climate and human activities on water quality and ecosystems at watershed, state, regional, and national scales.

Important but Not Essential Objectives:

4c. Predict the physical and chemical water-quality and ecosystem conditions expected to result from future changes in climate and land use for selected watersheds.

SOURCE: Design of Cycle 3 of the National Water Quality Assessment Program, 2013-2023: Part 2: Science Plan for Improved Water-Quality Information and Management; January 28 2011.

thrust of Cycle 3, which the committee supports. Objective 4a is essentially a study of how to enhance existing water-quality models. Without suitable models, the ability to gain understanding and forecast with greater precision is jeopardized. Models like SPARROW and WARP, two NAWQA mainstays, have proven themselves suitable but have to be enhanced to account for dynamic conditions and nonstationarity (Milly et al., 2008). Thus, Objective 4a is essential. Yet models that are as yet untested or even non-existent will likely be required. As an example of the former, a potentially significant quantitative tool for assessing ecological condition is the current effort to quantify the extent and severity of streamflow alteration (Carlisle et al., 2009); understand the relationships among land use, climate change, and streamflow alteration; and quantify relations between stream-flow alteration and biological impairment (Carlisle et al., 2011). Time will tell if this approach has merit, but the work to date appears promising.

Objective 4b, calling for the development, calibration, and validation of decision-support tools, is essential to maintaining and enhancing NAWQA’s policy relevance. Decision-support tools are essential to water quality and water resources management in general. USGS and NAWQA in particular

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